1. Christopher Priest’s first “Black Panther” storyline
Chances are it’s been a while since you’ve revisited the very beginning of Priest’s landmark run, but it’s remarkable how well he establishes his own voice to the character and also manages to combine so many disparate elements into a single story.
Priest’s run features a lot of his trademark, prose-like narration, but he also allows artist Mark Texiera (with layouts by Joe Quesada, background art by Alitha Martinez, Avalon Colors coloring, with Richard Starking and Siobhan Hanna lettering) and context clues tell a story on their own.
(Okay, so our protagonists have gotten arrested and for some reason these African dignitaries are in Brooklyn, and that one guy had his pants stolen.)
Priest can also set up a great visual gag, like this one, where Everett Ross goes to pick up T’Challa from the airport in his two-seater Miata.
T’Challa is in New York investigating the murder of a child that is somehow wrapped up in a Wakandan charity. Meanwhile at home, someone has seized the opportunity to start an uprising.
At the time, both of these storylines were very reflective of the geopolitical atmosphere of the time and the propensity for domestic scandals in the U.S. (Not that much has changed.)
But Priest is also fully aware that he is telling a story in the Marvel Universe. So Mephisto is involved.
All of this also somehow ends up in mud-wrestling match, where this happens:
It’s a remarkable balancing act that only gets more interesting and complex as the story goes on.
2. The 21st Century Cartooning of Alejandra Gutiérrez
Alex de Campi’s “Twisted Romance” anthology is wall-to-wall great, but I want to focus on a particular story in issue #2, written by de Campi and drawn by Alejandra Gutiérrez. It’s a story about a photographer’s assistant named Twinkle and her relationship with a famous actor she meets on a shoot.
De Campi gives Gutiérrez so much fantastic material with which to express her unique and completely contemporary style, like this heavily design-oriented introduction of the disparity between Twinkle and the women she works around.
Or here, where Gutiérrez answers Twinkle’s question in the shape of the panel itself.
I love how younger artists bring together all the disparate influences they have access to; memes, manga, cartoons, whatever. It allows a great artist to visualize precisely what an experience feels like, even if it’s nothing like what it looks like.
This is a great sequence that not only integrates the iconography of modern life, but also outwardly expressing Twinkle’s internal life.
Panel 2 is my everything.
Gutiérrez also has the flexibility to go from tumblr-levels of exaggeration in one panel to stylized sexiness in the next.
Another Panel 2 that is my everything.
Over the course of the story, there’s really no limit to the kinds of styles Gutiérrez integrates into the story, including collage.Continued below
This kind of flexibility is what makes contemporary cartooning so exciting, and it’s perfectly suited to a contemporary romance comic.
3. The profiles of Bilquis Evely.
Let me just start by saying Bilquis Evely is a phenomenal artist who is good at pretty much everything. We all know this. But I read through “Lazarus X+66” this week (this issue is written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann, lettered by Jodi Wynne), and one thing that jumped out at me was how great she is at drawing profiles, specifically the profile of the focus of issue #5, journalist Seré Cooper. (Don’t sleep on the great coloring work of Santi Arcas on this series either.)
Cooper has a really unique nose (long term fans of the column remember, I know a good nose when I see one), but Evely sells it, especially in profile.
When Cooper visits a prisoner camp, Evely captures the distressed haggardness of the captors, sure, but look at how perfectly the structure of her hair falls to bring the eye down from the top of the panel to the bottom.
She also delivers great performances and panel-to-panel storytelling, all in profile.
Like I said, there’s so many things Evely is good at, but sometimes it’s nice to take a closer look at just one of them.
4. Mitch Gerads pulls back the curtain on his “Mister Miracle” art.
The recently released “Mister Miracle: Director’s Cut” #1 (you know, the series written by Tom King, drawn and colored by Gerads and lettered by Clayton Cowles), shows Gerads’s art without colors. It’s a very enlightening look both at his skills as an illustrator and what his coloring work brings to the table. The best way to see this is to look at them side by side.
These days, it’s almost impossible to tell if an artist is working in physical media, because you can replicate virtually any artist tool with a digital brush. So I couldn’t tell you if Gerads’s black and white line art is physically or digitally drawn. But you can see that he works in tones and a very loose, organic line. He also carries through this motif on his drawings of Oberon, where he draws his facial features over tape, which, if I’m not mistaken, is a pretty common practice for correcting art. I don’t know exactly what that symbolizes, but it feels significant, right?
Now look at what Gerads chooses to color, and, more importantly, not to color. The backgrounds are almost monochromatic, allowing the things he does choose to color stand out, especially Mister Miracle’s costume.
You can see in the curtains in this sequence, that Gerads loves the look of a good pencil.
But when he colors it, we can see just how much work goes into replicating that wavy video effect.
And looking at this sequence from black and white to color, you can get a really good sense of how Gerads captures that very specific look of Los Angeles daylight.
The Director’s Cut is littered with this kind of insight into Gerads’ process as an artist. I highly recommend comparing the work on every page, because its clear that every one has been given an enormous amount of creative thought.Continued below
5. Goodbye, “Invincible”
This week, we said goodbye to Robert Kirkman’s long-running “Invincible.” It’s an extremely well-put together issue, one that does not lend itself to picking and choosing moments to highlight. Everything works well together and I am also loathe to spoil how it resolves the 144-issue long story.
So I’ll just leave you, and it, with this single panel, that features so much of what made this comic great. The look on Mark’s face, the realities of superpowers, the wild alien design of artist Corey Walker, the pop coloring of Nathan Fairbairn, and the bold and equally pop lettering of Rus Wooton.
We’ll miss ya, buddy.